Are Dog Ear Infections Contagious? Our Vet Explains

Score for Seniors:
Activity Level:
Weight: Pounds


Siberian husky with allergies in a field scratching himself

This article was updated on June 23rd, 2023

If your dog has been diagnosed with an ear infection you may be wondering how they’ve caught it and if dogs who get close to them could be at risk. Ear infections are very common in our pet dogs, and most are due to the presence of excess bacteria, yeast or a mixture of both.

Signs of ear infections can include red, waxy and smelly ears. Your dog may shake their head, scratch at their ear and whine. From the outside, the ear might appear quite normal. However, there is usually a pungent smell that is unmistakable.

Are ear infections contagious from dogs to dogs?

signs of an ear infection / ear mites infection

Ear infections do not generally spread from dog to dog. The most common causes of ear infections in dogs include overgrowth of bacteria or yeast (due to allergies, moisture, or debris). These conditions and infections are usually localized to the dog’s ear and do not spread easily to other dogs.

Are ear infections contagious from dogs to humans?

Ear infections in dogs are not contagious to humans. There are certain types of bacteria that can cause infections in both dogs and humans. However, these cases are very rare. To be cautious and avoid the risks of contagion, you can take precautions such as avoiding direct contact with the infected ear(s) if you have any open cuts, using gloves when cleaning ears or applying medication and washing your hands after petting your dog.

How do dogs get ear infections?

Some of the factors that can contribute to the development of an ear infection include:

  • Floppy ears. Breeds such as Spaniels and Labradors are prone to infections as their ears are floppy. This leads to a canal that gets humid and moist; the perfect environment for microorganisms to thrive.
  • Getting wet. Water in the ear after a swim, groom or bath can contribute to infections developing. Those very prone to infections should not get their ears wet unless necessary. After they do get wet, owners should dry the ear canals thoroughly using cotton wool.
  • A narrow or thickened ear canal. Abnormal ear canals will affect air flow and ventilation, another factor that can lead to ear infections. Those who have had a number of ear infections in the past can permanently damage their ear canals, meaning they work less effectively at keeping infections out.
  • Allergies. One of the major contributing factors to ear infections would be underlying allergies. This can include food and environmental allergies. As well as ear infections, owners may notice other signs such as anal gland disease, chronic itching and red skin.

Ear mites can be contagious

Ear mites are more common in puppies than adult. They cause intense itching and can be visible as little white dots moving inside the canal. These mites can potentially be contagious from one dog to another if they are in very close contact.

All dogs in the home should be treated for ear mites if one has been diagnosed with them, as signs are not always obvious. It would not be unusual for ear mites to co-exist alongside an infection, and both should be treated at the same time where appropriate.

Does my dog need veterinary treatment every time they get an ear infection?

While it can seem over cautious to see a vet each time, and the visits can get costly, it is important that a dog is seen when they develop a new infection.

This allows the vet to examine their ears to check for any polyps, debris, foreign bodies (like grass awns) and to ensure his eardrums are both intact. The vet should flush out any wax or pus and swab the ear to check for mites, yeast or bacteria under the microscope. This is key, as it means we know exactly what we are dealing with and which treatment is needed.

The vet can then issue the most appropriate medicine which may include pain relief, anti inflammatories, antibiotics, anti fungals and/or an ear cleaner.

With chronic ear infections, the vet should also try and establish if there are any patterns or triggers, so we can try and avoid future issues.

For some dogs, allergy testing may be worthwhile.

How can I prevent ear infections in my dog?

We can help prevent ear infections by keeping the ears clean and dry whenever possible. Those prone to wax build-up may need their ears cleaned out every few weeks at home.

Dogs with known allergies will need to avoid their triggers, and this can mean e.g. feeding a hydrolyzed diet or minimizing dust mites within the home.

Some dogs benefit from long term allergy medicine, to reduce inflammation in the body.

When signs of infections start brewing, the sooner the dog is seen the easier it will be to treat them.


  • Dr. Linda Simon, Veterinarian

    Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS) has 10 years of experience as a veterinarian. She is a veterinary surgeon with a special interest in geriatric patient care, dermatology and endocrinology. She is a member of the British Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. She graduated top of her class from UCD School of Veterinary Medicine in Dublin in 2013. Linda has also worked as a locum vet in a range of clinics, including 24 hour emergency clinics and busy charity clinics.

Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.